Milton Erikson lived personally and professionally by five principles, the first being “change is inevitable”. This principle echoes the Heraclitus famous saying that you cannot step twice into the same river. At first impression this principle sounds cliché. As parents we all hold on to the notion that change is inevitable. We know our children will eventually grow up and will not stay at the “terrible two” stage or the “teenager attitude” forever. This approach tends to be passive in nature; we grit our teeth through rough situations, hoping and praying that with nature’s help, change will occur.
I would like to offer a proactive way to look at that principle. Change is inevitable not only because our children grow up, it is inevitable because whatever our children do is not who they are, it is the sum of their behavioural habits. When you look at one’s behaviour as a sum of habits as opposed to a lable of the iridentity you are opening the door for a change. Each of us can change our habits if we set our minds to it and while it is true that we can control no one but ourselves, we can still support our children in the process of change.
One of the parents I work with recently shared a challenge she had regarding her 4-year-old son’s physical interactions with her. Her state of mind was simply that he is a violent boy. When I introduced the notion of “change is inevitable” she concluded that when he grows older he might change. This mom saw her child’s habit of interacting in a physical way as his identity, and as such she believed that it this would remain unchanged even now. Consequently she felt all she could do was wait to see if he outgrew it and hope for the best as he grew up. I suggested she view his behaviour as a habit and to think about ways to support him in adopting constructive ways to communicate.
As the year begins I invite you to take a proactive parenting approach and to look at your children in a different light. Remember that their behaviour can be changed with your support now, because it is a habit and habits can be changed in 21 days and be sustainable after six months.